England and India pondering Test line-ups | Ralph Lauren

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Joe Root has called his friend Ben Stokes the heartbeat of the England team, without compare in world cricket even.

And yet England must replace Strokes somehow or the five-Test series against India starting on Wednesday at Trent Bridge is going to feel like five heart attacks.

Stokes’ decision last week to miss the series while he deals with mental health issues and a broken finger that refuses to heal was a severe blow to England’s chances of reversing a 3-1 series defeat to India in March.

England’s batting and fielding struggled without Stokes in early June, when New Zealand inflicted a first home series defeat since 2014.

To cover for Stokes’ batting and bowling, the short-term fix would have been Chris Woakes, but a bruised heel has made him unavailable until the third Test against India.

Other options are Sam Curran and Ollie Robinson, the latter available again after serving his suspension for racist and sexist tweets from 2012-14.

England are also believed to be keen to play left-arm spinner Jack Leach.

If James Anderson and Stuart Broad aren’t rotated, Mark Wood could be the odd man out.

Jofra Archer is back playing for his county but managing his right elbow after surgery.

Dan Lawrence is also expected to make way for wicketkeeper Jos Buttler in the middle order.

India’s squad has been in England for almost two months to fulfil quarantine requirements before the world Test championship final, which they lost to New Zealand in mid-June in Southampton.

One change to that side will be enforced after opener Shubman Gill returned home with shin splints but their replacement options have been limited by injury and quarantine restrictions.

Rohit Sharma’s fellow opener is likely to be Lokesh Rahul, who has opened in 33 of his 36 Tests but was apparently being considered by India in the middle order.

Rahul may yet appear in the middle order if vice captain Ajinkya Rahane doesn’t recover from a swollen left hamstring.

India are aiming for a first Test series victory in England since 2007.



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